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COMPANY INNOVATION RESOURCES

Four Innovation Styles

IdeaConnection Interview with Stephen Shapiro, Author of Personality Poker®, Goal Free Living, The Little Book of Big Innovation Ideas, and 24/7 Innovation
March 3, 2011. By Vern Burkhardt
"Remember that, first and foremost, you will learn about your innovation style – that is, the way in which you can best contribute to innovation and how you sometimes detract from innovation. By understanding your style, you can determine which steps of the innovation process are the ones where you can provide the greatest input." Personality Poker, page 8

Vern Burkhardt (VB): In Personality Poker you focus on "challenge-driven" Innovation. Why?

photo of Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro: I love to quote Albert Einstein when talking about this topic. He said if I had an hour to save the world, I'd spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions. From my experience, most organizations are spending 60 minutes finding solutions to problems that don't matter.

When you focus on challenges you're able to create solutions that are relevant to the needs of the organization. By contrast, when you focus on broad ideas you don't know which ones are going to be useful. This creates a lot of noise in the system and makes innovation much less efficient.

VB: In your article "how to Create a Culture of Innovation" you say, 'The "meta-challenge" for all organizations is to find which challenges, if solved and implemented, will create the greatest value.' Would you talk about this?

Stephen Shapiro: An organization's ability to figure out which problems if solved would have the greatest impact is probably the single greatest measure of whether an organization will be successful. A lot of times companies spend so much time on things that aren't relevant.

You're not looking for solutions. You're looking for problems and opportunities. It is about relevancy.

If you use the mind-set of focusing on challenges it raises the question of where do you find the key challenges? Obviously you'll find them in the marketplace, from customers, and also from employees. You don't ask, "What's your idea for the next big product?" You ask, "What problems, if solved, would help our customers?" It puts you in the mind-set of challenge-driven innovation, which ultimately becomes customer-driven innovation. It links back to challenges that will help your customers and help you grow your market.

VB: And this leads you to an innovation portfolio.

Stephen Shapiro: Yes. We use the word portfolio because it's similar to how you'd manage a financial portfolio. You want some of your money in savings and money markets which are safe, and you want some of it in risky growth stocks. You want a balance.

When most organizations look at their innovation portfolio they consider it from the perspective of projects being worked on, and what these projects will deliver. I like to look at it as a portfolio of challenges. If I understand the value associated with the solution to problems it gives me a much better assessment of whether or not I have a good portfolio. Then, for each of these challenges I will identify a portfolio of possible solutions and decide which ones to turn into projects.

The main thing is focusing on the portfolio of challenges and making sure that you have a good balance among them.

VB: What is Personality Poker?

Stephen Shapiro: Personality Poker is a card game that is designed to help create high performing teams, and to help create an efficient, high performing innovation process inside the organization.

In the game people are initially given 5 cards that contain a word on each. You keep those you identify with and trade the others with people who find them suitable to their personalities and who have cards that better describe your personality.

People whose primary innovation style is to prefer facts and principles will end up with more spade cards than the other suits. Similarly, those who prefer ideas and experiences will have mostly diamond cards, those who prefer plans and actions will have more club cards, those who prefer people and relationships will have more heart cards.

VB: Is playing it fun as well as a good learning experience?

Stephen Shapiro: Oddly, when we play people laugh and have a great time.

There are two primary differences between Personality Poker and most other personality tests. If you've taken personality tests you will know that most are painful because you're sitting in front of a screen or filling in a piece of paper with a #2 pencil.

The process with other personality tests is not collaborative. With Personality Poker people give each other cards that describe different personality traits based on the way they see each other. It creates a lot of fun and, because of the collaboration involved, participants have an opportunity to quickly get an assessment of the way others see them as well as how they see themselves. Because it's done as a group, Personality Poker creates a powerful experience that has much greater impact.

VB: Does playing Personality Poker in a group make some feel vulnerable?

Stephen Shapiro: That's a great question. I've found exactly the opposite to be the case.

People are happy because everyone starts poking fun at themselves while they're playing the game. For example, the 2, 3, and 4 cards represent the unproductive side effects of your strong suit. Being organized is a good thing but becoming anal retentive is not. Being empathetic is great but becoming overly sensitive is not.

When playing I force everybody to choose a 2, 3 or 4 card because it helps them poke a little fun at themselves. When people gift cards to others, they often gift the bossy card. They love to give these playful cards to others because it is a fun game.

People seem to be happy to be completely honest with themselves and with their co-workers. Feelings of vulnerability don't seem to arise.

VB: Is Personality Poker always useful in helping people determine what their personality style is?

Stephen Shapiro: It is useful to understand what your personality style is, but I try to make clear two things. One is that the process of Personality Poker is more about the conversation that takes place than what you get labeled. The suits, the colors, and the numbers on the cards you end up with in your hand all have meaning. They contain the words that describe particular innovation styles, but what suit you are can be less important than the conversation that is stimulated among your co-workers and colleagues. "Hey that's interesting, you chose the visionary card. Give me an example of something you've done that you think is visionary." Those conversations become powerful.

The second thing is I'm less interested in what people's personality is and more interested in what their personality isn't. When participants go through the process of trading cards they end up with 5 cards with words that describe their personality. Inevitably, for 95% of the participants there will be at least one of the suits for which they don't have any cards. If you have spades, diamonds, and hearts but don't have any clubs in your hand it indicates you need to partner with someone who has mainly clubs in order to innovate more effectively. It enables you to know the type of people you should partner with because they probably think differently than you do. It also tells you they are probably the types of people who are going to annoy you the most because they think differently than you do. This is a good thing, and you need to appreciate their point of view even though different than yours.

VB: You want to seek them out in order to have diversity on your team.

Stephen Shapiro: Exactly. There is irrefutable evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract. In fact, opposites repel.

When we're working on a problem we will tend to go to the person we easily communicate with – somebody who 'gets' us. That doesn't necessarily lead to the tensions necessary to get break-through ideas.

If you are working on a problem, instead of going to the person you would normally approach, go to someone who thinks completely differently than you do. Find the person who is opposite to your style, the person who holds cards that you don't have. Value that person's point of view and what they have to say.

VB: By tension, you mean having a different perspective and point of view.

Stephen Shapiro: Right. For example, people who are heart-oriented probably make a lot of their decisions based on how other people feel, or they might use their feelings, emotions, and intuition to make decisions. They will probably avoid the person who is numbers-driven because they will think to themselves, 'This person doesn't understand the way people think'.

To be effective you want to be both numbers and data-driven and emotionally-driven in the way you make decisions. The tension that gets created will help you find better solutions to your problems as long as you appreciate and accept what the other person can contribute.

VB: You say, 'Personality Poker has been played by over 25,000 entrepreneurs, "solopreneurs," CEOs, team leaders, managers, employees, and team members.' Given this large number, would you say that often organizations are not "playing with a full deck?"

Stephen Shapiro: Just to make it clear, playing with a full deck means that there's a complementary balance of the different personality styles.

I did a session yesterday with an organization. We had people with predominantly black cards go to one side of the room and those with red cards go to the other side of the room. The black cards were held by 90% of those in the room, and the red cards were 10%. It was a graphical depiction of an organization with lop-sided personality styles. One could conclude that most of the time they're not playing with a full deck.

Even in situations where organizations do have a balance of the different personality styles it doesn't mean all of the styles collaborate together. I worked with one organization that had a good balance of the four styles, but we found that it was the Human Resources people who were the hearts. Almost all of the R&D people were spades. Within these departments they were mainly collaborating with people who were like themselves so they didn't have an opportunity to benefit from creative tension.

VB: The key is to have a mix of personalities working together?

Stephen Shapiro: Exactly. People and organizations have personalities.

I find that large corporations, especially when focused on quarterly earnings for Wall Street or on other hardcore financial targets, are club and spade dominant. Clubs more so, because it's all about getting things done. People with a club personality style are all about the goal, the bottom line.

R&D organizations I have worked with, pharmaceutical companies for example, tend to be heavily focused on the spade personality style because they're the researchers – the really smart ones.

When we work with non-profits there's a lot of hearts. When we work with branding companies a lot of diamonds.

Even if there is a balance, the people who aren't the personality of the organization may feel ostracized and be much less effective than they could be. They also may have a higher likelihood of leaving. Even if you are in balance now, you might become unbalanced at some point so your retention rate will drop if you don't do things to retain those people.

VB: You have led many groups in playing Personality Poker. Do you still encounter surprises about human dynamics?

Stephen Shapiro: I would say so.

It surprises me that even when people know their personality from the formal personality tests, they still don't do anything differently. Nearly every organization has had their people go through some kind of personality test, whether it's Myers-Briggs, DiSC, or others that seemingly are suitable to their needs. I see time and time again how little impact most of those tests have had on the performance of an organization.

The reason organizations choose to do Personality Poker is there's something about the dynamic that shifts the conversation – that actually makes it stick. It also links back to innovation because it's designed around the four phases of the innovation process, and so they see a practical rather than theoretical application.

(Vern's Note: In Personality Poker author Stephen Shapiro identifies the four phases of the innovation process as define the challenge ("make sure the right problem is being solved"), generate solutions ("develop creative solutions"), plan and execute ("set up the structure and accountabilities for successful implementation"), and engage the hearts and minds ("get employees and customers on board and use each person to the best of his or her ability").

VB: Do you find that work associates often perceive others differently than those persons perceive themselves? To the extent this occurs, is it a problem?

Stephen Shapiro: I'm not sure I'd say most but I would say it's not uncommon.

When people see themselves differently than others see them, quite often it has a huge impact on their personal satisfaction. What people see is not your preferred perception but rather your behaviors and work habits. As a simple example, if you're someone who thinks of yourself as being a creative diamond but people relate to you as a good project manager, they're going to give you more project management work and ultimately you're going to be dissatisfied.

When I worked with a city organization in Texas the City Manager had chosen 5 hearts in the game. He viewed himself as being an empathetic and great people person, but everyone who worked for him gave him clubs. We quickly recognized that, as a City Manager, he was doing a lot of management work which he didn't enjoy. If he offloaded this work to someone else who liked doing planning it would enable him to focus on relationships. Having done this now he enjoys his work more.

The dominant suit tends to be a good indicator of whether or not people are doing the work they like to do, or have molded themselves into the needs of the organization at the expense of doing what they like best.

VB: Is this especially applicable to people in the lower ranks in an organization?

Stephen Shapiro: That's partly true, but as people climb through the ranks there are situations where what people love to do is not what they do. For example, if you're a Ph D and you've always loved to be in the laboratory doing research, but at some point you become a manager. This means you move from a spade to a club dominated role with the result you probably will become less satisfied with some of the things you have to do in your job. The same may happen if you like to be a creative person and you get promoted into the management ranks.

Particularly in large corporations as we get into the management ranks there tends to be more homogeneity of roles because the personality of the organization dictates it. For that reason we may see a lot of dissatisfaction at the leadership levels.

VB: You've mainly covered this earlier but do a surprising number of people tell you their workplace forces them to take on a personality style that is different than their preferred style?

Stephen Shapiro: Yes I think we did cover this earlier. It varies with the nature of the work to be done, but a lot of times how other people perceive you will dictate the type of work you are given.

There is an important point we didn't discuss. When people trade the Personality Poker cards and choose the cards with the words that best describe them, it's not a strength test. Your strong suit is not necessarily what are you good at. The focus is not on your skills as much as what gives you energy.

Some of the most dangerous situations are the ones where you are really skilled, you do it a lot, and yet it robs you of your energy because it's not something you find exciting or are passionate about.

When you do a solitaire version of Personality Poker, instead of trading cards with people in the room, you go through the deck one at a time. One version of the solitaire game has you put cards into piles. One of the piles is for things that best describe you yet rob you of your energy. Another is for things that describe you but you never get a chance to do them, but if you did, they would give you energy.

It's looking at the energy level, and so it's a slightly different slant than what we were talking about previously.

VB: If people are robbed of their energy will it inhibit their effectiveness in contributing to the innovation process?

Stephen Shapiro: It likely will, yes.

I find that in order to become successful people somehow manage to tough it out and do things that they don't like to do. The problem is in the long run they will likely burn out. They will become dissatisfied with their job and want to leave.

Even great performers, if robbed of their energy, may not have their true hearts in what they are doing. In these cases the organization might lose those great performers, which would be a shame and likely a financial loss.

VB: Among the entrepreneurs you have dealt with who excel at creativity, were many of them weak at implementation of their idea and if so, did most realize this weakness and take steps to attract those whose personality strengths compensated for this weakness?

Stephen Shapiro: It's hard to answer that question definitively but I would say that a lot of entrepreneurs are diamond-driven. This is especially the case with people who start up businesses – the true entrepreneurs. Sometimes they have other personalities, but a lot of times they're creative and tend to partner with people who are like them.

There have been a number of studies which show that small start-up businesses can usually scale quickly in the beginning, but at some point they hit a plateau and can't continue to grow. It's because they have too many people who think the same way. When they bring in divergent points of view they are able to break through that plateau and get to the next level.

I think no matter what size the organization is we tend to partner with people who are like ourselves. And with small organizations it tends to happen even more often.

VB: Likes attract likes.

Stephen Shapiro: Absolutely. More accurately, though, opposites repel. Likes don't necessarily attract likes, but if you have nobody else to be attracted to you will go to the people who are most like you.

As a very simple way to think about this suppose you have strong political beliefs and are on one side of the spectrum. The person on the opposite side of the political spectrum is somebody you're probably not going to want to hang out with. You're going to have fundamentally different values. But somebody who has the same political beliefs as you is not necessarily somebody that you're going to want to hang out with either. But if all you have to choose, you're going to go for people who are more like you in their political beliefs than not.

VB: Has it been your experience that the best leaders of organizations will show their vulnerabilities and participate in playing Personality Poker with their employees?

Stephen Shapiro: I think so. It's related to emotional intelligence.

I've found that when leaders participate in something like the card game, poke fun at themselves, and demonstrate their ability to be vulnerable, it gives people a lot more trust and respect for these leaders.

It's funny. I've held sessions where it's clear from the way the leader was playing Personality Poker that they were not a good leader. They're probably more of a dictator than somebody who motivates people to work to their best. The way people play the game can give you some very interesting insights into what their leadership style is like.

VB: Do some leaders only want to play Personality Poker with their peers; not with all their employees?

Stephen Shapiro: That's true. The gifting of cards becomes really interesting as the question is, 'Will the people inside the organization have the courage to give the cards to the leader that they think describes that person?'

Two sessions I've done come to mind. One was with a large electronics company where one of the leaders came up to me afterwards and said, "I don't know why but everybody gave me the bossy card." We both laughed because we took it as being a good sign. The fact people would actually give him the bossy card was an indicator that they felt he was approachable and could have these types of conversations. Everybody laughed when they gave it to him, but it also was revealing. The boss reflected, "Well that's interesting. Am I bossy?"

I also did one for the military. When we played the person leading the group got something like 10 competitive cards and, fortunately for her, she chose the competitive card too. After we finished playing the poker game she said to her group, "Well, clearly you guys are giving me a message but I see myself the same way." This is another example of when you poke fun at yourself it's a sign of great leaders – they're self-aware.

VB: 'Like playfulness and a positive mood, the "drowsy" brain induces a relaxed state and encourages insights.' Is this one of the secrets to creativity?

Stephen Shapiro: It is one of the secrets to creativity. There's a part of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is essentially the judgmental part of the brain. Any time you're trying to pick up something new it will immediately jump in and say, 'Well no. We've tried this before. We don't have enough money.' If you want to counter that part of the brain and suspend judgment, one method is to put yourself in a playful or drowsy state of mind.

I have a pencil and notepad made of waterproof paper that I stick to the wall of my shower. When I'm in the shower and relaxing with warm water pouring over me I get into a relaxed state of mind. Some people keep notepads by the side of their beds because they find that as they're falling asleep, or when they first wake up, they sometimes get brilliant insights. This happens because the judgmental part of the brain is still asleep or at least is not alert.

To me, part of the fun of Personality Poker is that it is a game and so we naturally tend to suppress the judgmental part of the brain. This means we are more willing to be playful in how we assess ourselves, thereby the results become slightly more accurate.

VB: This is more than a meditative state; it's whenever the brain is in a drowsy state?

Stephen Shapiro: Right, but it can be meditative.

The benefits of a relaxed state of mind also apply to golfers. Consider Tiger Woods who hasn't been able to play golf the way he did in the past. Likely the problem is he's thinking too much. Thinking stops our ability to access the parts of the brain where we are naturally in a state of flow.

The same is true of creativity in that we can over think the creative process. We need to get into the rhythm of not being too cerebral about the way we think about things. We need to try to tap into our natural creativity.

VB: 'Often inaccurately referred to as "left-brained," these rationals/analyticals… I describe them as those who put the "no" in innovation.' Would you explain?

Stephen Shapiro: Sure. We call them left brained, which might be thought of as pop psychology. It's not accurate because everybody has a fully functioning brain. There's no evidence that shows that one part dominates, but it's a good shorthand way to talk about the people who tend to be highly rational and logical in the way they make decisions.

Putting the 'no' in 'inNOvation' is a matter of finding all the reasons why things won't work. This is stereotypically people who choose predominantly black cards in Personality Poker. They are the clubs and the spades.

The black card people are extremely important to the innovation process as long as you're using them at the right time in the right way. You don't want to be going through a divergent process and have somebody shut down the process every single moment with 'no' reasons. The black card people have a useful role in the innovation process, but it tends to be more effective on the convergent side.

VB: Is this especially so in the plan and execute phase of the innovation process?

Stephen Shapiro: Plan and execute, but also for defining the challenge. The first step of the innovation process is to define the challenge, and the spades people in particular are great at having all the information, data, facts, demographics, and customer insights to help formulate what challenges to work on.

Defining the challenge is a divergent activity and we want all suits to participate as each has a different and useful perspective. In the end, actually selecting the challenges that will have the greatest impact for the organization is something which the spades do the best.

VB: You have said that hearts and diamonds "put the fun in dysfunction." What do you mean by this?

Stephen Shapiro: In a lot of organizations people don't play well together, or there's an environment that's not conducive to people feeling they love their jobs. I find that the red cards, those who tend to be more passionate, fiery and more influential in the way people think, put a bit of fun into otherwise 'unfun' environments.

Obviously you can have a little too much fun in an organization. I always say that if the leader is a red card, the business could end up in the red because people with red cards are notorious for chasing bright, shiny objects. They get caught up in novelty and what people want to do, as opposed to being methodical with instructions such as, 'This is what we need to do and this is how we need to do it.'

A person who is a red leader can be a great motivator, but they have to also have the courage to partner with somebody who is a really strong black – usually a good club. The club card person will make sure things get implemented and that the right things are implemented.

VB: Otherwise the organization could be scattered, disorganized, and unfocused?

Stephen Shapiro: Absolutely.

I worked with one organization where we did the personality profile of the two co-leaders. Both were predominantly red cards, and it clearly pointed to the reason why the level of innovation in the group was close to nil. When they put in a strong club to balance them, they suddenly found they could get much greater throughput. This was because they weren't as scattered and unfocussed.

The great thing about challenge-driven innovation is that it focuses the organization on things that matter. As I said earlier, challenges are the domain of the spades and clubs people.

VB: Do the insights contained in Personality Poker help to explain why some organizations don't obtain the expected innovations from their R&D departments?

Stephen Shapiro: To a degree, yes.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that most R&D departments are heavily spade-dominant, and they try to solve problems through the lens of their expertise. In many cases expertise is the enemy of innovation. If you have a deep expertise in a particular discipline it may be the very thing that stops you from looking outside the four walls of your organization or partnering with somebody who has a fundamentally different, divergent point of view. Also, your expertise may stop you from searching beyond what you obviously know.

We find that when everybody thinks in a similar way they're less likely to take risks, and they're probably not thinking about all the human aspects of what it takes to implement innovation. As a group, they probably aren't as good at thinking about the implications for the customers, legal, manufacturing, and all the other things that clubs might think about in terms of implementation.

R&D is very different than product development. R&D is composed of researchers in long robes coming up with ideas, whereas product development is an end-to-end process which starts with a need and ends with implementation in the marketplace. I've gone into organizations and redefined product development to be up to 6 months after product launch. When you take this perspective product development involves sales, marketing, legal, manufacturing, distribution, and more. Even this subtle shift in perspective can have a big impact on the approach to collaboration within an organization.

VB: In product development you need to be playing with a full deck?

Stephen Shapiro: You need to be playing with a full deck because within each of the departments and functions there tends to be more homogeneity than across them. If you look at a sales organization most often they are either club or heart dominant, depending on the nature of how they sell. If you look at Human Resources departments they're almost always heart dominant.

When you create cross-functional teams you're going to see some creative tensions emerge. As you start to create multi-disciplinary teams, which is a whole different level of diversity, different sets of challenges are identified.

VB: Do people you work with and who have read Personality Poker often change the way they allocate resources to the four phases of the innovation process?

Stephen Shapiro: They do, but I don't think they necessarily do it in as explicit a way as I've described. In a lot of cases it almost happens naturally.

After Personality Poker is played I encourage everybody to put on their desk the 5 cards they have chosen that best describe them. It reminds them they should talk to somebody who is their opposite. When having a meeting the awareness of personalities helps them recognize there are different approaches that are best suited to working with different people. It seems to result in subtle shifts that get reinforced all the time.

Rather than saying, 'All you spades now focus on challenges' people will naturally gravitate toward this approach. And everyone in the organization will have a better understanding of how they can make the most contribution when working in groups and teams.

VB: "The key insight from Personality Poker is the realization that everyone else is not like you." Would you talk about why this is the key insight?

Stephen Shapiro: Most of the time people surround themselves with others who are like them, and avoid like the plague those who aren't because they find them to be annoying. It's not only the realization that everyone's not like you. It's that everyone can and does contribute to innovation.

There's another realization that a lot of people reach. You don't want to treat people the way you want to be treated; you want to treat them the way they want to be treated. For example, most performance evaluations that are typically done inside an organization tend to be black card in style. The focus is on what numbers you achieved and many other things that are measurable and quantifiable. The question to consider is what are you going to do to reinforce and encourage the performance of red cards? How are you going to assess diamonds in terms of whether or not they're contributing creatively?

The key is to motivate and measure people differently based on the way they want to be motivated and measured, not the way we want to be motivated and measured.

VB: In the design process the red card dominant people will be especially adept at gaining an understanding of customers' needs and wants?

Stephen Shapiro: Yes they will.

We always hear the golden rule that says you should treat others the way you want to be treated or do unto others as you want them to do unto you. It's wrong. You need to recognize that each person has a preferred style.

Hearts will understand the way people are motivated so they can add a lot of value when trying to understand existing and potential new customers. It is the hearts that have the best understanding of human behavior to begin with, and they are especially useful in this way in the innovation process.

VB: You say the Personality Poker game 'didn't take off until I had an "a-ha" moment in Las Vegas several years ago.' What was it like to hit the jackpot?

Stephen Shapiro: It's wasn't a question of taking off; it was born in Las Vegas.

I'd been doing personality profiles for many years that consisted of a spreadsheet or a series of powerpoint slides. I had made these presentations to tens of thousands of people. It was fast and efficient, but didn't have a lot of excitement. The four steps of the innovation process, which tied back to the four styles in the spreadsheet, were composed of only 40 words. Each column represented one of the four steps. The first column would list all the people who were good at defining a challenge, with words like analytical and rational. The second column included the people who were good at generating solutions, with words such as creative and adventurous.

I don't know why I made the connection when I was playing Blackjack in Vegas, but I realized, wow, I've got four steps in the innovation process, four styles, and there's four suits in the card deck. I grabbed a Sharpie marker and started writing the words that were on the spreadsheet I referred to earlier on a plain deck of cards. I had to make up an extra 12 words, and those were the funny words such as anal-retentive, bossy, and over-sensitive.

It took several iterations before I achieved the final version of the cards that exist today. It's actually the fourth version of the poker cards. I partnered with some universities to get the words and approach properly analyzed so it would be as effective as possible.

VB: You said you grabbed a marker after you had the a-ha thought. Did you write the words that came to your mind while you were still at the blackjack table?

Stephen Shapiro: I might have been kicked out if I did! No, I did it a week or so later.

VB: You didn't rush back to your hotel room and start creating?

Stephen Shapiro: Not right away. Once I started to play with the words on the cards it struck me as 'Wow. This is better than I thought it would be.'

I'd seen other card-based tools and thinking aids before. The aspect of card-based personality tests is not unique. Dealing out poker cards and having the colors, suits, and numbers have meanings is original as I don't think there's anything else like it. And they are so incredibly effective.

VB: Your Personality Poker IAT measures people's unconscious personality preferences, which may be different than their conscious preferences. Why is it useful to know both?

Stephen Shapiro: The Implicit Association Test is something that Harvard University developed a number of years ago to measure people's biases, such as do you have a racial bias. I've adapted that test, which is computer-based, to help people understand what are their biases for or against particular things. Do you have a bias for or against plans? Do you have a bias for or against thinking creatively?

The reason why your implicit or subconscious beliefs are important is when push comes to shove, and you're under time constraints or pressure to deliver, you will tend to operate more from your implicit or sub-conscious beliefs rather than conscious beliefs. To think consciously about something requires you to take the time to make a decision to act that way. If you only look at yourself through the lens of how you see yourself consciously and don't take into consideration how you see yourself in stressful situations, you might not get a good picture of how you'll behave all the time.

There are those, however, who will find that the way they see themselves unconsciously and consciously are similar. In these cases they will be consistent in stressful and non-stressful situations.

VB: Who should read Personality Poker and use this card tool?

Stephen Shapiro: Every person on the planet should do so!

It's interesting that I created Personality Poker specifically for people in the innovation space but the people who gravitate towards it the most are Human Resources people. Most HR people love to do things where people engage with each other and learn about each other. They enjoy the process of Personality Poker as well as the outcome.

I've found that a lot of people who are in the innovation space, as most people define innovation, tend to be spade and club oriented. Even though we think of innovation as being creative, most of the people who are leading innovation inside organizations aren't creative. They are very methodical in the way they tackle things.

For a fun game like Personality Poker a lot of innovators ask themselves, 'Is it scientifically valid?' It is but they may not accept that it is.

VB: Do the leaders of organizations appreciate the effects of Personality Poker?

Stephen Shapiro: Absolutely.

The book comes with a deck of cards so you can play it.

Reading the book, even if you don't play the card game with someone else, will help you recognize the value of encouraging divergent points of view and how to do it. This alone is valuable learning for a lot of people.

Understanding the human dynamics, the science of high-performing teams, and why homogeneous teams operate more efficiently yet are much worse at innovating is an interesting insight from the card game. Another is that in organizations almost everybody thinks the same way, which is the enemy of innovation efforts. Most refer to this as an organization's culture. I say it is what makes an organization a cult.

VB: Do you have any final advice on how to use an understanding of personality styles to obtain optimum results from the innovation process?

Stephen Shapiro: The key thing is we want people to embrace different points of view. The best way to get the best results is not to label people. Once you put a label on people – if in Myers-Briggs you're an ENFT, in DiSC you're a D, or in Personality Poker you're a spade – we now limit their ability to truly contribute.

The most useful thing is, rather than labeling somebody, to attempt to understand what are their blind spots. What are the cards they don't have? What are the suits they don't have represented in their hand? Who are the people they should work with because they don't think like them, with the result of being most effective in moving things forward?

I'll give you a simple example. Years back I was leading a project where we were creating something new. I decided I needed a co-leader and the person I chose was somebody who saw eye-to-eye with me. We had the same philosophy, values, beliefs, and, as it turned out, the same thinking styles. We had a great time working on the project, but at the end of the year the team had spent lots of money and got absolutely nothing done.

For the next project I worked on I decided to co-lead with somebody who was my opposite. In the beginning it was difficult to work with this person who was in my face asking for deliverables, budgets, and holding me to timelines and deadlines because I didn't work and think like that. As we worked through the process I began to appreciate his contribution, and we started to get into a rhythm. It was then that the whole project team started to flow.

The secret is to not try to change the approach and thinking style of anyone else, and to not try to change yourself. Rather, you need to figure out which individuals to partner with and how to form teams in order to ensure a diversity of thinking styles and to work with those who will compensate for your weaknesses. It's the easiest and most effective way to encourage innovative thinking.

Conclusion:
Author Stephen Shapiro reminds us that everyone is creative in their own way. He has developed a simple-to-use, fun method of becoming more aware of our preferred, adapted, and desired or ideal personality style. Personality Poker also enables us to become more aware of what we are not – the style(s) we have no desire to take on.

The ability to play Personality Poker in small or large groups, which can lead to a conversation about preferred styles and the need for diversity of styles among people who work together, provides powerful and useful insights.

The author poses four questions which "…can be the key to a successful, thriving, and growing business. It is also the key to true innovation."


  • Do you have balanced teams with all styles adequately represented? ("play with a full deck")

  • Do you have the right people in the right roles so that they can maximize their performance? ("play to your strong suit")

  • Are you dividing the work in a way that maximizes individual accountabilities, limits groupthink, and minimizes redundant tasks? ("deal out the work")

  • Are you bringing together each style on a regular basis in a way that encourages collaboration and creative tension? ("shuffle the deck")


Stephen Shapiro's Bio:
Author Stephen (Steve) Shapiro earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering at Cornell University.

During his 15-year tenure as Associate Partner with the international consulting firm Accenture he established and led their Global Process Excellence Practice, delivering innovation training about process excellence principles to 20,000 consultants. In 2001 he left the management consulting world to promote his first book, 24/7 Innovation, and to be an advisor, speaker, and author on innovation. He is President of 24/7 Innovation.

During the past twenty years, Steve Shapiro's message to hundreds of thousands of people in forty countries around the world has remained the same: Innovation only occurs when organizations bring together divergent points of view in an efficient manner. He has become the modern-day Pied Piper for those interested in a revolutionary approach for personal and business success.

Steve Shapiro is the author of Personality Poker®: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation (2010), The Little Book of Big Innovation Ideas: 75 Tips for Turning Creativity into Profitability (2007 – to be re-published by Penguin Portfolio in October 2011), Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want Now (2006), and 24/7 Innovation: A Blueprint for Surviving and Thriving in an Age of Change (2001).

24/7 Innovation, which outlines his step-by-step program for instilling a mind-set of ongoing innovation within an organization to achieve and sustain a leadership position in any market, was featured in Newsweek, Investors Business Daily, and the New York Times.

Goal Free Living quickly became the #1 Amazon.com "Business Motivation" best seller, and was the subject of a cover story in O, The Oprah Magazine and a full-page article in the Wall Street Journal. It was also heralded in Entrepreneur Magazine and on Tom Peters.com, many others.

Personality Poker® was on Inc Magazine's bestseller list for November 2010, and selected as one of the best business books for 2010 by 800CEOREAD.

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